Donald Trump called Vladimir Putin to congratulate the Russian leader on winning his third elected term as president on Sunday despite condemnation from his own administration that likened the election to communist votes held before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Trump/Putin relationship is one that continues to baffle spectators both within and outside of the president’s administration. Why won’t Trump, who’s outspokenness against lawmakers and allied leaders garnered him worldwide attention, come out against a constant antagonist such as Putin?

Russia has, since the 2014 annexation of Crimea, been cultivating a growing divide between itself and Western nations, pushing the limits of what is tolerated and flexing its growing technological might with increased cyber attacks and the newly announced “new class” of nuclear weapons capable, Russia says, of striking anywhere in the United States.

It has also been acknowledged by the president himself that Russia is “probably” to blame for the nerve-agent attack against an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in Britain last week. Yet none of this was mentioned by the president in his phone conversation with Putin, even after the Washington Post broke a story reporting that staff members close to the president advised him to “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” Putin in prepared notes for the call.


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In a brief talk with reporters on Monday, the president said of the phone call with Putin that, “we had a very good call, and I suspect that we’ll probably be meeting in the not-too-distant  future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control.” A reference to Putin’s recent threat to the West about the new class of nuclear weapons Russia is said to have developed.

Republicans were quick to attack the ineffectiveness of the president’s conversation with the Russian President in the midst of strained relations between the two countries. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement that “an American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” and that Trump had “insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell said of Putin’s victory that it had reminded him of “the elections they used to have in almost every communist country where whoever the dictator was at the moment always got a huge percentage of the vote. So calling him wouldn’t have been high on my list.” Putin garnered near 75% of the total ballots cast.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders shot back at critics telling reporters that “we don’t get to dictate how other countries operate. What we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country, and that’s not something that we can dictate to them, how they operate. We can only focus on the freeness and fairness of elections in our country,” she added. In 2017 President Trump called for the “full restoration of democracy” in Venezuela calling out President Nicolas Maduro for his move toward authoritarianism before slapping the country with sanctions.

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